Concluding a day of heartfelt reflection on Canberra's summer of bushfire, smoke and hail, Chief Minister Andrew Barr seemed to express a genuine hope for the new year in ACT politics.
"I hope this sets the tone for the year ahead," he said, before adding that time-honoured qualifier "only time will tell".
Two days later, standing in the same position in the ACT Legislative Assembly chamber, Mr Barr stared down Liberal leader Alistair Coe and delivered a verbal spray that confirmed the summer of solidarity was officially over.
"If you ever sit on this side of the chamber ... you could only hope to achieve nearly a fraction of what this government has achieved," he said.
"It is going to be a great election year, and I certainly look forward to beating the Leader of the Opposition in October."
That petty politicking returned to the ACT Legislative Assembly so quickly and flagrantly was, in some respects, surprising.
Leaders on all sides have spoken with sincerity and compassion about the summer's extraordinary events, extolling the virtues of unity and bipartisanship. Coe last week said the devastation wrought by the fires would force "people to recalibrate ... and consider what really matters". Threats to life and property put the the "little titbits in politics" firmly in perspective, he said.
But while Canberra's summer like no other will not soon be forgotten, the reality of politics - and the nature of politicians - meant that passionate partisan debate was always going to return.
There is, after all, an ACT election to be fought and won later this year.
The first of just seven parliamentary sitting weeks before the October 17 poll might be reflected upon later in the year as a microcosm of the entire campaign.
It began with the spotlight on Coe, albeit in concerning and regrettable circumstances.
A doctored Facebook post in which Coe reference a supposed "climate change conspiracy" was shared widely online, including by Greens leader Shane Rattenbury. It was quickly deleted, but the damage was done.
The unfortunate event told two stories. It showed that the territory election would not be without the dirty tricks and dissemination of outright falsehoods which have muddied, in some cases sabotaged, campaigns in Australia and overseas.
It also indicated that Coe will have to weather the majority of the attacks from Labor, the Greens and their fellow travellers, as he attempts to lead the Liberals to government for the first time in nearly 20 years.
Inside the chamber, the two parties laid out the platforms upon which they'll fight for Canberrans' vote later this year.
Barr used his first political speech of the year to spruik the government's big infrastructure agenda, while warning Canberrans that "now was not the time to send the city backwards". Labor wants to make it clear that it is the party of big ideas and big projects. It's just going to need more of your money to deliver them.
The Canberra Liberals, in contrast, want the focus to be on bread-and-butter issues, the type of topics they say are constantly raised with MLAs on doorsteps, street corners and outside shopping centres. Skyrocketing rates and taxes, a poorly performing public healthcare system, axed bus services and basic city services.
The opposition opened question time on Thursday afternoon by quizzing the government on tree roots. The Liberals are convinced that Canberrans feel strongly about these issues, and are angry and frustrated by the government's apparent failure to address them.
Their criticisms of the Barr government are based on an ever-increasing body of evidence.
The Productivity Commission's yearly reports on the performance of government services, published over the past fortnight, provided rich pickings for the Liberals.
But while the opposition has shown itself adept at highlighting and at times exposing the government's flaws, it has proven far less effective at articulating how it would do things better.
Aside from a freeze on residential rates, the Liberals' cupboard of major policies is decidedly bare eight months out from an election. The clock is ticking.
Perhaps it won't need them. Perhaps the strategists at the Canberra Liberals HQ figure that a small-target campaign, bereft of big policy or spending promises, is the best chance they have of defeating Labor at the election.
Without a rapid and significant economic turnaround - and that looks unlikely given current circumstances - Labor will arrive at October's election with the territory's budget in the red.
The government's mid-year budget review, delivered late on Thursday afternoon, revealed a projected deficit of $255.6 million for 2019-20, nearly triple the sum predicted when the June budget was handed down. Debt will increase to $4 billion in the next two years, according to the latest forecasts.
Coe seized on the budget blowout, and the escalating debt, as evidence the government couldn't manage its spending.
"The fact that we now have debt in the ACT at $3 billion and that's going to be escalating to $4 billion in just a couple of years should be of real concerns to Canberrans," he said.
But Barr was unrepentant. He said it would be "crazy" to prioritise surpluses and rein in spending on essential services such as health when the territory was staring down the economic threats of the bushfire recovery and coronavirus. A looming shake-up of how GST revenue is carved up is also likely to hit territory coffers hard.
Barr's rhetoric on the threat of coronavirus will be perceived by some as alarmist. Some will say it's a convenient excuse for poor economic management.
But consider that 4000 students enrolled at the Australian National University are presently barred from entering the country due to the outbreak.
That's nearly 1 per cent of Canberra's population - which won't be paying rent in the city's apartments, spending money in its supermarkets or drinking in its bars.
The economic consequences should the China travel ban remain in place beyond next week could be enormous.
For all that Barr and Labor can control inside the ACT's borders, it is effectively powerless to influence what occurs outside them.
And those factors could play a major role in shaping the territory's fortunes in the near future.
A near future which includes an ACT election.